City hires 3 Midland law firms

The Odessa City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to hire three Midland law firms to defend them in their ongoing open records lawsuit brought by the Odessa American.

The three hired law firms include Cotton Bledsoe Tighe & Dawson, PC, Brockett & McNeel LLP and Keith Stretcher, all of Midland.

Following Tuesday’s council meeting, City Attorney Natasha Brooks said she could not disclose how much the city will pay the three law firms because they have not yet signed contracts with the city.

During the past 506 days the city has spent $112,138.47 to fight a lawsuit brought by the OA to enforce the state law that guarantees the public’s right to see basic police records.

Mayor Javier Joven, and council members Mark Matta, Mari Willis, Tom Sprawls, Steve Thompson and Denise Swanner approved the hirings without making any comment. Councilwoman Detra White did not attend Tuesday’s meeting so she could not vote.

Council also voted 6-0 to adopt the audit findings of an independent audit conducted of the city’s 2019-2020 fiscal year which concluded Sept. 30, 2020.

The independent audit was conducted by Midland-based Weaver and Tidwell, LLP.

Overall, the city received “clean” or high marks in their audit, which revealed that the city is financially “very healthy,” auditors said.

But auditors did cite one “significant discrepancy” discovered during the city’s audit – they initially couldn’t find about $200,000 in the city’s record books.

Assistant City Manager of Administrative Services Cindy Muncy previously explained that the money was there, but due to a technical glitch the auditors did not see it.

The auditors noted they also discovered several minor financial record-keeping discrepancies, but agreed with Muncy that the errors were due to a new accounting system that the city installed in October 2019.

The city was not penalized for any of the errors, but auditors encouraged city officials to work with the company they purchased the system from to make sure the errors don’t occur during next year’s audit.

The city ended the 2019-20 fiscal year with a $105.9 million balance in its general fund and boasted a healthy $24 million in its fund equity, which is also referred to as its contingency savings account.